One word that describes teens is change. During these adventurous transitional years, they change constantly – especially their minds, bodies and hormones. They begin to question life, their future, their beliefs. Regardless of the changes, one thing must remain constant – our unconditional love for them.
We should love our sons and daughters through all their seasons of life. Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, said, "Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within the reach of every hand."
Here are some ways to love teens through the changing climate of their lives.
Love During Their Winter
One of our greatest challenges is to love our teen during blizzard-like conditions, when their heart is cold. They need our love during an emotional whiteout more than ever. What are the signs of winter?
- depression or suicidal thoughts
- radical change in friendships or school attendance
- drug and alcohol abuse
- sexual promiscuity or teenage pregnancy
- academic failure
- self-destructive behaviors like cutting or eating disorders
- illness or death in the family
During an emotional blizzard, teens can't hear your advice because they are too deep in pain. Recruit a rescue team if their storm is addictive or life-threatening. Obtain a Christian counselor or inpatient treatment – sooner, rather than later. Or find a trusted mentor or tutor to help them. Educate yourself about your son or daughter's issues. Ask trusted loved ones for prayer. Join a support group for parents of troubled youth. Contact your church or google the topic for possible local groups.
Even when you disapprove of your teen's actions say "I love you" anyway. Let your actions show you care. Calmly express your pain, thoughts and emotions when appropriate. Pursue healthy communication at all times.
You can't afford to ignore abusive or self-destructive behavior. When one mom's son was arrested for the second time, she didn't rescue him. Her motto? Time for tough love. Be available to hear your teen out, even if you've said everything you know to say. Encourage your son or daughter until he or she experiences brighter days.
Love During Their Spring
You'll know when spring has sprung in your teen's life. The signs? A blossoming friendship. A budding romance. A growing interest in a talent or new job.
Their optimistic and adventurous outlook makes loving them easier. Yet during this season they still need your counsel. Help them make wise decisions with dating or responding to a grumpy, demanding boss. If possible, financially support a new hobby. Remind them to live a balanced life, not to invest everything into one person or activity. Encourage them to focus on their education and not get lost in the fragrance of spring.
Love During Their Summer
In your teens' summer season, they flower and mature. You feel comfortable relaxing and enjoying the healthy growth you see in your son or daughter. Their character blooms and thrives.
Loving during this season takes intentional effort. Stay actively engaged by nurturing your relationship. Resist the temptation to kick back, which could be detrimental. Plan activities that you know they enjoy or value. Go to that loud concert for a change. Connect face to face over a meal or shoulder to shoulder over a movie. Make those memories today. Because come fall, everything changes – right before your eyes.
Love During Their Fall
Autumn is a time of change. Leaves that were once green fade into yellow, orange and red, eventually falling to the ground. Flowers die back and drop seeds for next year's new growth.
You will know when it's fall because your son or daughter transforms before your eyes. Your please-take-a-shower-it's-been-days middle schooler becomes your please-save-some-hot-water-for-me high schooler. Your son who once collected cards now collects CDs. Your daughter who once promised she'd always live with you now prepares for her first apartment. New words saturate your conversations like graduation, college admissions letters, or shopping trips for sheets and dishes.
As you witness changes in your teenager, be encouraging. Appreciate the transformation. Even if their direction disappoints you, support them. As hard as it is, be willing to say, "Go for it" to your son, who wants to spend his summer after his freshmen year learning to rock climb, when you'd rather him take tennis lessons – with his feet on the ground! Tell your daughter you admire her courage and determination when she chooses to go on a year-long missions trip instead of fulfilling your dream of her going straight to college.
The best way to love in autumn is learn to let them grow up. Don't try to confine them into something they no longer are. Let go of who they once were to welcome the new color you see in them. Challenge them to step out and be all God created them to be.
Love for All Seasons
No matter which season your teens are passing through, rely on God to give you wisdom and strength to love them well through their winter, spring, summer, and fall.